With Aramis Ramirez, Frank Thomas, and *cough* Sean Casey now off the market, most of the top corner infielders/DHs have already found homes for next season. However, there are still a few guys available who can help a team.
- Nomar Garciaparra, 1B
Nomah had a nice little season last year, although he was unable to shake the “fragile” label he’s acquired of late and played just 122 games. When he played, he played well, posting an .870 OPS in the hitter-unfriendly confines of Chavez Ravine. You’d think the Dodgers would look elsewhere, considering the way James Loney played last year when Nomar was hurt, but they’re rumored to be the front-runners. Colletti will get a deal done this week for more money than you might expect: 3 years, $24 million guaranteed.
- Aubrey Huff, “3B”
Despite the fact that he the hitter he replaced in Houston’s lineup was nearly his equal, Huff played fairly well. For 2006 as a whole, he overcame a very slow start to post numbers slightly below his career averages. 2002-2004 may never come back for Huff, but he can still kill right-handers and would be a wonderful platoon option at first base (where his glove won’t kill his value). If the Astros have really soured on Ensberg permanently, they might look to bring him back. The Padres, though, have no other in-house option and are looking to make moves this offseason. 4 years, $28 million seems steep, but they an afford it.
- Shea Hillenbrand, 3B/1B
Hillenbrand is like the blue-light special version of Nomar; he doesn’t much care for the free pass either. However, he’s much more prone to striking out than is Nomar, and hits for a lower average as a result. Still, he’s durable and available, two qualities that will guarantee him a lot more money than he might otherwise deserve. The Giants, searching for a solution not named Pedro Feliz, are my pick: 3 years, $18 million with a 4th year that vests based on playing time.
- Craig Wilson, 1B/RF
Now that he’s finally escaped Pittsburgh, perhaps Craig can find a place where he can be handed a position and allowed to play it relatively free of interference. Although he’s played at least 115 games in four seasons, he’s never played the same position more than 89 times in the same year, a testament to how frequently the Pirates jerked him from position to position (as well as in and out of the lineup). Wilson’s best days are likely behind him, but he remains a career .265/.354/.480 hitter who will be just 30 next year. The Orioles could use Wilson either at first, in the outfield, or as a DH, and would be well-advised to sign him to a 2 year, $12 million deal, but will probably waste the rest of their budget on relief pitching instead.
- Rich Aurilia, 3B
How did Rich Aurilia slug nearly .520 last year? Park illusion? Steroids? We may never know. Continuing the career resurgence he began in 2004 after nearly being bounced from the bigs for good, Aurilia crushed lefties to the tune of .347/.406/.680 last season. Don’t expect him to do that again, but do expect him to earn more than last year’s $1.3 million. He’s probably best utilized in a platoon arrangement, but unless he doesn’t get much of a raise he’ll be too expensive for his team not to play him every day. The Reds are probably the most likely destination; they’re familiar with him and will fondly remember his success last year. He’ll play all over the diamond for them and probably not be worth the 2 year, $9 million deal he will get.
See ya next week.